New Technology Being Designed to Better Diagnose Mental Health Problems by Observing Emotions

Sometimes, when a patient suffering from a mental illness talks with their doctor, they may say that everything is going well, even if it’s not. How does a doctor know if this information is correct or not? Without talking with a family member or close friend, it might be hard. According to, “the premise behind a new wave of startups and entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in healthcare” is mobile technology that will, essentially, be able to analyze emotions through a variety of factors, such as vocal, visual, and psychological cues. The hope is for this analysis of emotions will be administered a long side other vital signs.

The article at said that upwards of 85 percent of people who are “diagnosed with a chronic condition aren’t correctly diagnosed with depression.” And of those that are experiencing depression, less than 1/4 are getting the correct treatment for their condition. This technology that is being developed will hopefully help with this problem.

There have been several companies developing different things. One company, Cogito, is focusing on “vocal clues in phone conversations or visual signals in face-to-face meetings.” Another company, Affdex, are using webcams to read facial expressions. Other systems that will be available will involve mobile sensors that will sense physiological responses to different situations.

While these innovations will hopefully help better diagnose people and monitor their condition, it is important to remember that the technology is not a lie detector or mind reader, said Joshua Feast, CEO of Cogito:

What this technology can do is replicate the observations of an observer. You’re focusing on how people speak and interact, not what people say.

Love this idea. I could see how it could be extremely useful. I mean, if it’s mobile and can monitor someone for a long period of time, that would probably a lot more accurate in determining a person’s mental status than just visiting with them for a few minutes, as some doctors might. I couldn’t believe that so many people are mis-diagnosed and given the wrong treatments for mental illnesses. Having known many people with mental illnesses, I have observed  how people act when they have the correct treatment versus one that might not be quite right. It’s drastic. The companies that are developing these sensors and monitors could help increase the quality of life for patient’s dramatically if the technology actually works. With so many developments coming forth with medical technology, I agree with what Dr. Joseph Kvedar, the founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, said.

It’s the dawn of time for that particular technology. There’s so much sensitivity to the role that mental health plays in our healthcare.

The possibilities are endless. Feast said that he could see it being used to diagnose PTSD and mental disorders, to spotting stress in employers and preventing work-burnout before it begins. I’m very excited to see where this goes in the near future and makes me grateful that we live in a time where so many developments for the bettering of life are being made.

About the author

Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.